Mount Vernon News
Katrina Wintz, stands at the Curtis Inn with three of her children, Talon, Sophia and Darion. They are among the residents who have been ordered to evacuate the east buildings of the hotel by noon today due to fire code violations.
Katrina Wintz, stands at the Curtis Inn with three of her children, Talon, Sophia and Darion. They are among the residents who have been ordered to evacuate the east buildings of the hotel by noon today due to fire code violations. (Photo by Chuck Martin) View Image

By Mount Vernon News
October 24, 2012 10:38 am EDT


MOUNT VERNON — Residents of the east portion of the Curtis Inn have been ordered to evacuate the facility by noon today because of sanitation and public health issues.


LJJA Martial Arts


Mount Vernon Fire Chief Chris Menapace issued a press release Tuesday afternoon stating, “Due to an unacceptable amount of code violations that were found to be of imminent danger to life and property, the Curtis Inn was mandated to evacuate and discontinue the usage of the kitchen, the catwalk connecting the east and west portions of the hotel, and the entire eastern portion of the hotel.”

Menapace explained that the fire department, in conjunction with the Ohio State Fire Marshal’s Office, conducted an annual certified fire safety inspection of the facility at 12 Public Square Tuesday morning.

“Because of sanitation and issues regarding public health, the Knox County Health Department was called to the scene and was present for the majority of the inspection. Numerous violations of the Fire Code were noted, falling into many layers of severity and concern.”

Menapace said that during the inspection it became obvious they needed to shut the facility down.

He said they found evidence of people living there longer than 30 days, which is the limit for transient housing (motels, etc.). Rooms being used for storage of mattresses and furniture had open electrical boxes and wires exposed in the ceilings. Gas and other liquids were stored in the mechanical room, gas was stored in an electrical closet, 15 of the room smoke detectors were missing or not working, there were wiring and exhaust problems in extended stay rooms, a natural gas leak was detected in the kitchen, along with a problem in the fire suppression system and a wiring problem with a cooler. There was also evidence of air conditioners missing with nothing done to block animals from getting through into the hotel.

“They’re like doggie doors for animals,” Menapace said.

In the laundry room, the natural gas dryers were not working properly.

Because of the unsanitary and dangerous conditions, Menapace said, the safest thing was to close the facility.

“I have to think about the safety of the people living there,” he said, “as well as the safety of my firefighters if they are called there, the safety of other guests and of the general public. A fire there could be devastating to the downtown.”

The east building and the restaurant “are closed indefinitely,” Menapace said. The rest of the western section of the hotel is fine, he added.

Residents of the hotel, some with young children, were wondering where they are supposed to go on such short notice. They also complained that the manager indicated they would not receive any refund for days beyond today that they have already paid for.

Manager Walter Dsouza however, said Tuesday he did not know what the owner would decide to do and he would not be at the inn until sometime Tuesday evening.

Tracy Wright, who said she has lived at the inn for “a little over a month” with her five-year-old, said she had an agreement to pay $150 per week, if she did her own housekeeping, and is paid up through the end of the week.

She said they were told they had to be out by noon today, or they would be prosecuted, even if they were paid up.

Katrina Wintz and her husband have five children, age 21 months up to 8 years, and have been at the inn about 10 days.

“He owes us for three days. First he said we would get it back, then he said no,” Wintz said.

Wintz said she and her husband are in the process of finding a place to live, but they’ve had a couple places fall through. She said they went through an eviction, but her husband is now working and she’s optimistic about getting a place.

But it’s not likely to be by noon today.

But they almost didn’t have that. Residents said they were originally told they had an hour to move out.

Menapace said that since it was unlikely any of the residents would have any place to go on such short notice, he and representatives of the Health Department, the Law Director’s Office and the Pubic Defender’s Office decided the residents could stay until today under fire watch conditions.

Tuesday afternoon, residents were going around signing up other residents for fire watch shifts through the night. Residents also said a fire drill was on the schedule for 6 a.m.

Residents were wondering where they were going to go when the deadline arrives.

“Be here at noon tomorrow,” Wright said. “You’ll probably see some people getting arrested.”

Amit Bansal, a partner in the hotel, told the News this morning that he has not seen the report yet. He added he would have to shut down the entire hotel because the mechanical and housekeeping areas are in the east wing. However, he is unsure as to what will happen next.

Unused portions of room rent will be refunded, he said.

Calls to various organizations could not confirm if any kind of assistance would be available to help residents find housing by today’s deadline.

Contact Chuck Martin

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